NPR All Songs Considered: Lydia Ramsey, 'Ghosts'
Lemonade Magazine: 'BANDITA' Debut Album Review
Lemonade Magazine: Music Video 'Ghosts' Review
KIRO Radio: AirRaid Podcast
The Monarch Review
A multi-instrumentalist and songwriter, Lydia Ramsey has been praised for the almost vintage quality of her voice. But her art and outlook aren't solely influenced by the past and certainly not dwelling in nostalgia. A collector of ancient music making devices, her songs feature those instruments in unique arrangements to color the tunes, all the while backing up her beautiful voice. Her songs convey both the wildness and free nature of the great northwest and are steeped in the fingerpick-guitar rudiments of folk music.
Born at home in the wooded beach town of Indianola, WA, Lydia was raised in a house scattered with instruments, from guitars and mandolins, to clarinets and accordions. With an upbringing rooted deeply in musical discovery and invention, her earliest inspirations came from her exploration on the piano, through the music of Chopin, Bill Evans, Debussy and Bach. When she began playing guitar, she drew inspiration from traditional folk artists. These influences shaped the foundation of her songwriting, combining the melodies of classical and jazz composers, with the storytelling and harmonies rooted in folk music.
Lydia resides in Seattle, and has performed throughout the U.S and internationally.
READ THE STORIES BEHIND the new album "bandita"
My parents are both musicians and always filled our house with music. They were close friends with two other musicians named Bill and Leslie who lived in a small town near Mt Rainier called Ashford. Although our homes were more than 2 hours apart, they set an intention to bring our families together again and again throughout my younger years to share community and music. Bill and Leslie, along with my parents, would often play on the train that went from Elbe through the lower foothills of Mt. Rainier to make their wages in the summer. I often rode along and listened, pondering the experience of musical performers engaging with an audience. This was my first window into the performance world and traditional folk music. In the evening we would retire back to the house and just hang together, playing more tunes and singing our stories. It felt so special that we had this place where we could all be together. Growing up with people who trusted in pursuing their passion inspired me to do the same. That environment and the true joy these loving family members got from playing tunes together helped me discover my own musical voice and to believe in it. Ashford begins the album as a testament to these early roots.
This tune began with the acoustic guitar line and that swooning vocal melody, though was only hummed for some time before any lyrics came. Around this time I began searching for more information about my ancestors. In talking with my parents and grandparents I began to learn of my roots in Appalachia and further back in Ireland, and how many of my ancestors shared a love of musical creation. I found it fascinating that this love of making music was passed on through generations, and now here I was, doing the same thing, picking tunes, loving it. I wanted to tell their stories: my great grandfather played the fiddle; my grandmother was born in 1920 in the dust bowl in Oklahoma and was one of nine children, her mother made all of their clothes including beautiful dresses for her and her sisters; her father owned a watermelon farm and drove his tractor trailer filled with fruit to sell through their town; my grandmother on my mother’s side toured all throughout the mid-west in the 30's leading tent revival meetings, speaking to crowds of 1000 people when she was just 14 years old about the inclusiveness of love. Some of the lyrics are fantasized to include those in my family from way back whose stories are lost but not all forgotten, as they shine through those of us alive today.
3. Dreamy Eyes
This love song is a gesture and remembrance of how sweet the simple moments of love can be. To me, the middle of the night and early morning seem to be the most intimate times to share with someone; where the heart takes over the mind. When I wrote this tune I remember feeling lost deep inside of my emotions at times, especially alone at home, waiting for love to return. The song was recorded a bit slower than I'd play it live, giving it a sweet country swing that's just right for toe-tapping with your honey.
4. Caught in the hills
The hills in Eastern Washington always put me in a dreamy head space. They appear as rolling, golden, velvet mounds with a sensual likeness to the human form, and provide a stark contrast to the heavy, wet, greenery we live in on the west side. As sunset approaches, long shadows are cast across the landscape creating hidden valleys, pockets of slowly growing darkness. It's as though the light is surrendering to the hills' prowess. I like to imagine myself as a horse galloping across the hills, covering massive amounts of ground in long sprints, feeling utterly free. I feel a constant desire to shed the weight of frivolous stress from everyday life and to feel inspired to dream and create beauty. For me, there's always a new spark of life that stirs when I'm in nature, a fire that burns brighter with every breath of fresh air.
There's something special about the coming of spring. As the gloomy darkness begins to fade, the world becomes alive again. Beauty is far and wide, birds are singing, flowers are blooming, and love seems to permeate the air. The very beginning of love has a unique energy, like a jolt to the spirit. Simple things like eye contact, finding common interests, telling jokes you both think are actually funny, begin to take over your entire day. But it can also be hard to trust. After making it through a few rough breakups in my 20's, two things happened: One, I decided to make sure I was 100% myself, all the time. No more would I not say the weird things in my head, or not make those nerdy jokes only I thought were hilarious, or not speak up when I disagreed with someone; Two, I would not seek out love. I would work on becoming my most bad ass self, and trust that someone equally bad ass would come into my world. When that someone came into my life a few years ago, I didn't believe it at first. But the love stuck, then grew, and became something I'd never known before. It's amazing how you can have one idea of what love means, then have that idea completely redefined. "Springtime" is a look at love in this way, and a call to live passionately, like you never have before.
6. Weak In The Knees
This tune leads off Side Two of the record, and takes us to the darker side of this saga, where things are unraveling, the path is blurry, surroundings suddenly unfamiliar and the time has come to grab hold of the wheel and drive in the opposite direction. I'm ultra self aware when I'm feeling vulnerable and everything is just off. And yet, it's all too easy to keep jumping back into the same cycles, because even a temporary fix feels better than having nothing or no one. I believe we all know deep down when we're on the wrong path, sometimes it's just covered up by layers of bullshit that cloud our connection to that deeper truth. There's something about the blues that cuts right to the core of a matter, and perhaps just by saying something out loud we're able to see it for what it is.
7. Shake me
I've had some very close friends pass away in the last 10 years. In the shock and despair of grief it's as though you exist in a dream state, stuck on your own isolated axis as the world spins on around you. I remember when another friend passed, and then another, there was this feeling of "oh my god this cannot be happening again." But of course, the longer we live the more people we say goodbye to. And we're supposed to just keep doing our normal everyday things, like talk to people, answer emails, laugh, eat a meal, fall asleep at night. But there's a weight in the middle of your core, holding you back from feeling anything other than pain. During those times I would wish there was something that could shake me out of that state, but there never was. You just learn to take things day by day, and eventually, as time gives you space from the sorrow, you begin to heal. And then you're out the other side, more aware of the beauty in this life and how dear the people around you are. As your capacity for pain deepens, so does your capacity for joy.
8. show me the stars
It's easy to let your mind wander into the future and dream about what life could be like. What if this, and what if that. Especially with love interests, you get carried away envisioning all this potential together right from the start. It's craziness because it's purely emotion based, and can quickly lead you astray. And when you have someone painting the picture for you, talking about how good things could be, you're completely in the moment, ready to drop everything and hit the road without looking back. It becomes really hard to keep a clear mind and focus on what it is YOU want your life to be. This song was written as I came out of a fog, back to reality and settled into the real life before me, not the fantasy in my head. (This tune has been a favorite on KEXP this week! And a favorite in my heart every week.)
9. DAYS ON THE ROAD
Considering earning a living as a musician often means facing a life on the road, living out of a van, away from friends and family, not knowing how your relationships will have changed when you return. And while it's intimidating to think about sustaining that lifestyle, the traveling I've done for music has offered opportunities for great adventures I wouldn't have experienced otherwise. The music becomes the home that centers you and brings you closer to those around you. Each show, audience, performance is different from the last and adds a complexity to your existence that helps separate one day from another, breaking up the monotony that can begin to make you feel like life is passing you by. I think diversifying your days helps to open you up to new ways of internalizing the world around you, and the best way to diversify is to head out on an adventure. And if you're able to incorporate music in some way, you have this wonderful tool to connect you with the people you meet.
10. NIGHT AFTER NIGHT
I often find myself wavering between the feeling that life is rushing by and that life is at a total stand-still. Some days I feel anxious and bored if I don’t have enough to fill my day, and the day lasts FOREVER. Then a whole year will go by in a flash and I can’t think of one thing I did with my time. So, each day I've begun to think more about finding joy in moments. In simple things like cleaning the kitchen counter or putting on a record, washing my hair or making a meal. I’ve found that beyond anything else, what keeps me the most grounded in the moment are my people. A friend or a love or a parent, whoever it may be, it’s our relationships that allow us to feel like we’re really living and getting some of the real goods out of this life. And certain people that we connect with on deeper levels stay in our hearts longer, occupying our minds in the quiet hours before we drift off to sleep. Night After Night closes out the album with a sleepy lullaby reminding us of the simple and crucial joy of human connection.